Celebrating the Inaugural Beyond Borders Cohort

The inaugural Beyond Borders cohort presents to a packed house at Surrey City Hall.

All photos by Jana Josue of JJosuePhotography

Over the past 5 months, Beyond Borders, the first cohort of the Refugee Livelihood Lab has been tackling complex systemic issues facing our communities.

Issues like labour exploitation and precarious work, lack of credential recognition, discrimination, social isolation, racism and pressure to assimilate all emerged as barriers to thriving livelihoods.

Our purpose has been to experiment with shifting the patterns that sustain these problems, through the development of practical on the ground projects, and building a shared understanding of what’s holding problematic systems in place.

The Beyond Borders Celebration was an opportunity for participants to share their projects with the broader community, and seek input and support to continue to develop their work.

To do this, we developed principles to guide us. For example, to counter the pattern of racism and devaluing of newcomer skills/experience, a principle of ours was: Center the leadership of racialized migrants.

As many of you might have felt in the room – this led to deep experiences of collective power and joy in recognizing each other’s brilliance. We’ll be sharing more about our learnings throughout the lab process – but in the meantime, here are our top 5 moments from the celebration!

What we loved:

1. Breaking in City Hall: What a thrill to be with more than 150 Black, Indigenous, Muslim, and newcomer families coming out to show their love, support and leadership. For many, it was their first time in the Surrey City Hall building!

2. Children Dancing in the Center: Music and LOTS of dancing! Our DJ’s Ajay and Anjali kept us moving. We loved seeing different groups get dancing as the global music playlist progressed – capturing themes of solidarity, love, resistance and FUN. And who can forget the children dazzling us with their moves. The presence of children helps build community.

3. Amplifying Projects that Matter: At the end of the night, each project took home new connections and an envelope filled with messages from influencers in the community. We loved seeing Beyond Borders members owning the stage, showcasing their work, giving and receiving A LOT of support.

4. Sharing the Food: Even the security staff got to take home some of the luscious food catered by talented refugee women-run businesses through the Global Market. If you are looking for delicious and affordable catering, this is the number to call: (604)498-3137.

5. Poetry that Moves Worlds: Spoken word poets Valeen Jules and Ayan Ismail helped us feel things that needed feeling. Themes included what it means to celebrate Canada 150 on stolen land, impact of family separation due to war, and how the “Global South” is still seen as a problematic place that needs saving.

Read more about each of the Beyond Borders cohort projects below!

Led by: Sireen El Bashar, Ahmed Seyed, Rana Alahmad, Anabel Lopez, Zahra Hashemi

Creating a platform by and for newcomer women with micro-businesses to develop their capacity, expand their markets, build community, and thrive.

The Ask: Spaces to host markets, marketing and media support, sponsors and grants for our project which will help us achieve our goal of empowering newcomer women to improve their status in their homes and socially.

Led by: Monica Alas
This initiative aims to organize refugee youth facing barriers to access in post-secondary education. Through training, advocacy, and innovative partnerships to address systemic barriers – this project aims to leave no youth behind in education.
The Ask: What can you do to support? Talk to postsecondary institutions about accessibility to education for vulnerable populations. Support and engage in groups funding refugee integration in Canada. Be nice to your refugee neighbours. Join our movement to make policy change a reality by raising awareness of challenges that refugees face.
Contact email: monikaalasa@gmail.com
Led by: Munifa Nasser
Addressing climate change as a key factor in forced migration worldwide, this app builds community while supporting individual behavior change as part of a global movement to steward the earth. “Less meat, less heat, more life!” Watch this video for more information.
The Ask:  Support in getting connected to existing green networks,  potential partnerships and sponsorships. Please spread the word by sharing on LinkedIn, Facebook, instagram with the hashtag #GreenCommunities_withGreenThinkers”
Contact email: smartmeatapp@gmail.com
Led by: Farizan Razie
This initiative connects the talent, experience and training of newcomers directly with businesses who need technical solutions to their problems.
The Ask: Please refer coders who have lived experience as refugees, and who would like to be involved in prototyping PowerHack.
Led By: Said Aziz
Using photography, this project aims to spark conversations within immigration service organizations about what do we do that supports hope and confidence in staff and newcomer clients?  What do we do that gets in the way of hope and confidence?
Led by: Wafaa Zaqout and Andisheh Fard
This initiative organizes communities to respond to the way in which having a “Canadian Work Experience” requirement is often used as the basis of hiring discrimination against newcomers.
The Ask:  Join our Coalition: Access to Meaningful Employment for Refugees and Newcomers (AMERN) – BC.
Led by: Dacious Richardson
This initiative aims to create a strong, sustainable infrastructure around a newcomer youth-owned and youth-led soccer social enterprise.
The Ask: Seeking sponsorship, partnerships, donors, and mentorship. Looking for funding and expertise in organizational development.
Contact email: dacious@hotmail.ca
Led by: Zainab Ibrahim  
This newcomer youth developed educational game creates fun opportunities to shift challenging patterns of cultural segregation in schools. Building strong cultural identities and supporting learning across difference – this games grows powerful relationships!
The Ask: Connections (invitations to schools & after-school programs), investing ($5000 is needed to train youth facilitators and prototype next version of the board game).   

Next steps 

Refugee Livelihood Lab Trampoline program will take place this spring. We will be hosting Beyond Borders 2.0 in the Fall of 2019. Stay tuned for more information. Subscribe to our email list to be the first to hear when applications are open.